Q5 55 TFSI e quattro (and breathe) to cost around £55,000
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Qu’est-ce que c’est? The slightly noveau Citroen Grand C4 Picasso. Facelift bingo cards at the ready: it’s got new lights, new wheel designs, new trim inside and updated tech. Right, everyone got a full house? Then we’ll continue. It doesn’t look new, though. Nope, unless you’re an LED fetishist the exterior updates are completely invisible. Not to worry – the Grand Picasso remains about as weirdly handsome as it’s possible to be for a seven-seat van-with-windows sort of vehicle, with the contrast-colour roof pillars and seemingly upside-down face as fresh today as they were back in 2013. Fair enough. Inside is what matters when we’re looking at family carriers, right?
Right, and though the bit where the little ones sit remains the same (roomy, glassy, with enough clever seat operations to house games of musical chairs and the disco afterward), Mum and Dad have been treated to a new dashboard. The colorful but busy instruments have been simplified, now gaining in legibility what they’ve lost in colour and character. A sensible move. Meanwhile, the standard 7in touchscreen which you depend on for climate control, Apple CarPlay and sat-nav, if specced, has gained capacitive touch-sensitivity, so it’s more likely to accept your first prod without hesitation. The response times are indeed snappier, though the messy interface means it remains an imperfect system, that requires more time with eyes off the road than ideal.
I imagine it’s pretty forgettable to drive? Memorable is hardly the right way of describing the Grand Picasso’s twisty-road drive, though it’s competent enough, and not-at-all top-heavy, but come on: who are you kidding? What matters here is comfort. Serenity. Soothing of the brow. That’s more like it. For a giant, echoey bus, the Grand Picasso is gloriously quiet – how Citroen has eradicated wind noise is approaching alchemy but very welcome all the same. The visibility is excellent, the seats are comfortable. It’s not show-off pub fact stuff, but it’ll make life easier when the kids insist on play-fighting ten minutes into the family holiday airport run. What’s not so good, then? Mainly, the real-world economy, so far as this downsize-happy petrol version goes. Putting a 1.2-litre three-pot turbo engine in a car this big hasn’t resulted in sluggish pace – you’d swear there’s more than 170lb ft on hand, and it’s a keen yet very quiet little engine. But because you depend on that boost so heavily, economy rarely climbs out of the low 30s, against a claim of 56.5mpg, and that alone makes the thriftier, rattlier diesel a safer choice. In basic trim – the smartest choice – the 128bhp petrol costs £21,935. That’s a £995 saving versus the basic diesel. Get the engine right for how you’ll use the car, however, and the Grand C4 Picasso remains a cracking family MPV. If you’ve lamented Renault for not brining the new Espace to the UK, and aren’t fussed by crossover marketing, the spirit of the comfy, handsome and unpretentious French MPV is alive and well here. Bon.